We must base our future training on improving factual results of contact and ball flight, not “feels” that we internally sense are incorrect. Learn more by watching Todd Elliott’s video on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnQmyz8Y18I&t=3s.%5B/caption%5D All Things Golf
How many times have you heard these well-meaning but generally useless tips on the golf course: Keep your head down. Keep your left arm straight. Keep your right hand out of it. Keep your eye on the ball. It’s mental…etc., etc. Either golfers repeat these admonitions to themselves, or other golfers are lending free advice to their playing companions. All of these phrases make me cringe for a lot of reasons.
These “tips” come from what golfers feel in their golf swing, or see in someone else’s swing. They make me cringe because golfers who work on fixing any problem based on such tips will find that they have negative long-term effect on improving one’s golf game. This is because attempting to fix a bad feel by simply trying to eliminate the feel is detrimental to a golfer’s instinct, and the best thing a golfer has is instinct. As surely as the sun rises in the East, killing a golfer’s instinct will slow progress toward long-term game improvement.
For example, a golfer tops a golf shot by hitting the top of the ball with the bottom of the club. The golfer then self-diagnoses the problem as having lifted his or her head during the swing. In too many cases, he or she tries to swing the rest of the day, maybe the rest of the year, by keeping the head down, even after the ball has been hit. Not letting the head move during the swing and after impact can have bad effects on a golfer’s game and also on a golfer’s physical well-being.
The important point to remember is this: Don’t try to diagnose every golf swing. You may or may not be correct about what is wrong and that is risky business. That goes for me as a coach, too. There is no guarantee a fix I give will help. This is why I try not to instruct students. Giving people “how to” instruction is not a winning model, guiding a golfer to find his or her own answers is my model.
So, when you top a golf shot, don’t try to fix anything at first, just keep on trying to make the golf ball go toward the target. If the problem persists, you should then evaluate contact and the results of where the golf ball went. In this case, you topped the ball, so contact was not good. We can all agree that the only fact we can be sure of in this instance is that the top half of the ball was hit with the bottom of the club. At this point, we need to change the external focus and give our instincts a chance. Focus on making a swing that hits the bottom of the golf ball. I know that sounds too simple, but we must allow our instincts a chance to adjust to the correct focus. Just changing our focus will not fix the problem 100 percent right away, but our instincts will react to a different focus pretty quickly.
Don’t try to self-diagnose based on what we feel happens. Just keep on playing and learn more from the results of the shot. Nothing tells us more about how we hit a golf shot than the direction and flight of the ball after impact. This is all part of developing the skill set we need to improve our games in changing conditions, such as variables in lie, slope, wind, rough, club selection, etc.
The real problem behind a disastrous shot may be in how we have progressed in our skill development, not in the swing. As golfers, we are either improving our skills or not. While trying a different feel during your swing on the next hole might result in a good golf shot, in the end, we have the same skill set we had before that swing thought. There has been no improvement, just a fortuitous, and probably unsustainable, swing.
The best advice I can give to aspiring golfers is this: Spend more time evaluating the results of your golf shot and just keep on playing, taking into account where the ball is on the golf course, where you want it to go, and what you have to do to get it there. Working on developing skills under varying course conditions will help you do that.
Todd Elliott is the Head Golf Professional at Hideaway Beach Club on Marco Island, Florida. Todd is a PGA and CMAA member. Todd is Titleist Performance Institute Level 3 Golf Certified. To contact Todd email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @elliottgolfpro.